Category Archives: Wildfare

Gorilla Day Kwita Izina

Brussels 24.09.2021 Today is World Gorilla Day Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony will take place. Kwita Izina, an initiative of the Rwandan government, is an exciting time for Fossey Fund staff and our devoted followers, who are going to celebrate the baby mountain gorillas born to the gorilla families of Volcanoes National Park.

https://twitter.com/wwf_uk/status/1441311595208929284?s=20

At this year’s celebration, 24 baby gorillas will be named — including nine baby gorillas born into families that are protected and monitored by the Fossey Fund.

Who names these babies? Each year the Rwanda Development Board selects honored guests to choose the names. During last year’s naming ceremony, which was help virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the 24 baby gorillas were named by trackers, rangers and other frontline conservationists, with a few named by members of England’s Arsenal football club. This year’s honorees have not yet been announced.

“As the world battles the devastating effects of COVID-19, I would like to draw attention on this important day, and to reflect on how the pandemic has affected gorillas with whom we share 98.4% of our DNA. All four gorilla subspecies are endangered or critically endangered; their survival threatened by human activities and intensive agriculture that lead to habitat loss, poaching, bushmeat trade and disease. These include mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas found in east and central Africa and western lowland and cross river gorillas found in central and west Africa” writes Philip Lymbery the Chair of the President of Eurogroup for Animals.

However the poaching remains a threat, and to reduce it, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) also works closely with coffee farmers who we support to help maintain a steady market and fair price. By training farmers to grow coffee using sustainable agricultural methods, which results in a greater yield and a higher quality of coffee this target can be achieved.

The conservation Fund offers above market prices for their premium and specialty coffee, which is sold to tourists and conscious consumers who wish to support gorillas and purchase ethical, sustainable quality products. During this pandemic, international sales of coffee have enabled Bwindi farmers to earn a living in the absence of tourism, helping to mitigate the threats to mountain gorillas.

COVID19: Zambia poaching on rise

Kafue National Park in the heart of Zambia is one of the largest protected areas in Africa, now is under threat of poachers, who can enter the park without worrying about running into safari operators and their guests. In the months since the pandemic began, bushmeat poaching in Kafue’s formerly secured core zones has returned to the same level as two years ago, before the security overhaul, Rachel Nuwer writes.

In her article she point out that from May to August 2019, for example, rangers recovered just 25 snares from boundary areas surrounding the core protection zones, whereas this year, they found 136 snares over the same period. The amount of bushmeat seized over the same period has also skyrocketed, from about 100 pounds last year to more than 3,300 pounds this year. Two lions – both breeding females – have been killed in the core protection zones, something that “just outright never happened” prior to the pandemic, Young-Overton says.

The pandemic will almost certainly leave long-lasting impacts on Kafue’s wildlife and surrounding communities, Young-Overton says. Animal populations take much longer to recover than to decline, and the cascade of local poverty brought about by COVID-19 will not resolve itself overnight.

Across Africa, where the vast majority of protected areas already operate on a shoestring budget, similar scenarios are playing out. The pandemic has laid bare what conservationists have been warning of for years: that support for Africa’s nature is grossly inadequate. But rather than just highlighting and exacerbating this fact, many experts believe that COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to completely revamp the way the world approaches conservation in Africa, which is currently almost entirely reliant on the fickle tides of tourism and the whims of donors. Through the fog of struggle and loss, conservationists see a chance to rebuild the status quo into something that is significantly more self-sustaining, resilient, and equitable.

For the majority of protected areas, the sums brought in from tourism and other sources are far from adequate. According to a 2018 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, many such reserves are “paper parks,” or areas designated for conservation solely in name. They lack the resources to actually implement conservation on the ground. The paper’s authors calculated that 90 percent of the nearly 300 protected savannah ecosystems in Africa they analysed face crippling funding deficits – to the collective tune of at least a billion dollars.

Zimbabwe bans mining in game reserves

Zimbabwe has banned mining in countriy’s national parks, reversing a decision to let Chinese firms explore for coal at its famous Hwange game park.

The move came after campaigners took the government to court to prevent “ecological degradation” in parks.

Two firms had been given a licence to explore for coal in Hwange, Zimbabwe’s biggest national park.

In court papers filed on September 7, the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) warned that the park would degrade into a “site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys” if coal exploration went ahead.

Following a cabinet meeting on September 8, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced the ban on mining with immediate effect in all national game reserves.

“Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks,” the Minister said.

Ms Mutsvangwa also adjusted a ban on mining along most river beds, in a decision that would affect small-scale Chinese and local gold miners.

China is a major investor in Zimbabwe and a close ally of the government. The critical areas in China-Zimbabwe cooperation is in electricity and power generation, the key to the landlocked country development.
Over recent years, Chinese investments have funded infrastructure projects in the Zimbabwe and southern Africa in sectors including transportation, energy, telecommunications and manufacturing.

Namibia hippo flock dying trapped in mud

Dozens of hippopotamuses are stuck in mud in a shrinking pool in a game reserve in Namibia, and are at high risk of dying of dehydratation and hunger, the Daily News online publication reported on September 5. The animals should stay in water or mud to protect themselves form sun and heat only daytime, but they need to swim in water during reproduction and childbirth, and they have to they emerge at dusk to graze on grasses. The flock stuck in the mud has no more water to drink and is not able to get out for graizng neither.

The pool, in the Wuparo Conservancy about 900 km northeast of the capital Windhoek, was dependent on flows from a nearby river but a prolonged drought has dried up the source, the newspaper said, quoting the manager of the nearby Livingstone wildlife camp.

Several hippopotamuses have been stuck for months in the pool. More than 40 are believed to be there now, the manager said.

Hippopotamuses, or commonly named hippos, are large, mostly herbivorous, semi-aquatic mammals native to sub-Saharan Africa. Nowadays hippo is the third-largest type of land mammal that inhabits rivers and lakes.

However these impressive animals, which are now only found in Africa and Asia, once upon a time roamed also in Europe.

The scientists discovered their remains in Greece in Pinios river valley, attributing to the Upper Pleistocene era, which began 180,000 years ago and includes a vast swath of human history, ending just 10,000 years ago, when humans had begun to form settlements.

Mauritius oil spill ESA dramatic images

European Space Agency (ESA) has released images of MV Wakashio oil spill view from space, depicting the huge area of devastation of the Mauritius waters, and coastline.

Reportedly large cracks have appeared in the hull of MV Wakashio cargo vessel, leaking oil in Mauritius, prompting the Prime minister to warn it may “break in two”.

The wrecked ship, which is believed to have been carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil, ran aground on a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on 25 July.

Despite bad weather, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said 500 tonnes had been safely pumped out on August 10.

However he warned the islanders should be preparing for the “worst-case scenario” with further release of the rest of the fuel into the ocean.

Mauritius is home to world-renowned coral reefs, and related tourism is a crucial part of its economy.

Lions need protecton amid pandemic crisis

African countries need to strengthen protection of lions without delay amid threats to their survival linked to aggravating situation related to pandemic criis, reflecting in rise absence of tourims, and rising of poaching, conservationists said on ahead of World Lions Dayobserved on August 10.

Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said that African lions were facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritize their protection.

“We have witnessed the population of lions in Africa declined in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,” Kabesiime said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.

The conservationist said that World Lions Day offers an opportunity to raise awareness on the emerging threats of poisoning big cats by livestock keepers and poaching to satisfy the overseas traditional healers demands.

“There is a need to raise awareness on the plight of lions even as we celebrate them as Africa’s iconic species,” said Kabesiime.

Statistics from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) displays the dramatic decline of Africa’s lion population from 200,000 in the last century to the current 20,000.

Kabesiime said that currently, lions exist in 26 African countries adding that the continent has lost about 90% of the carnivore from its original habitat amid rapid urbanization.

She said that the African lion has been categorized by IUCN as a vulnerable species amid international trade in its claws and jaws to meet a rising demand for traditional natural healers and jewelry.

“The other challenge facing lion conservation is illegal bushmeat and poisoning by farmers as a deterrent measure against attack on livestock,” said Kabesiime.

The shrinking of prey base for African lions linked to massive hunting by local communities, has increased their risk of death through starvation, Kabesiime has underlined.

The industrialised captive breeding of lions that has intensified in some parts of Africa also represents a threat to their survival, causing degeneration.

The scientists urged African governments to support innovative lions’ conservation programs that focus on expanding their prey base while minimizing conflict with humans.

Kabesiime said that a complex of measures as a ban on international trade in lion’s products coupled with enforcement of laws to deter poaching will help reverse their declining numbers in Africa.

Mauritius ecological disaster

The island nation of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after a Japanese tanker offshore began leaking tons of oil into the ocean.
MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on 25 July and its crew was evacuated. The inhabitants of the ilsland were left alone to solve the environmental crisis.

Since the date of the shipwreck the large bulk carrier has beenleaking tons of crude oil into the surrounding waters.
France has pledged support and the ship’s owner Nagashiki Shipping ensured it was working to combat the spill.

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared the state of emergency late on Friday, August 7.
He underlined that the nation did not have “the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships”, and appealed to Preisent Macron for help. In his Tweet response French President vowed to deliver aid to the islanders from the Island of Reunion.

The French island of Reunion lies near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius is home to world-famous coral reefs, and tourism is a crucial part of the nation’s economy.

Being registered in Panama, the MV Wakashio is owned by a Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping.

The island nation, which relies on its waters for fishing and tourism has deployed around 400 sea booms, physical barriers made of metal or plastic, to slow the spread of the oil.

The Japanese owners of a cargo ship leaking oil off the coast of Mauritius apologized and promised to do everything possible to contain the spill.

Mauritius is admired by tourists for its natural environment, beaches and water sports.

Botswana investigates elephants mysterious deaths

Preliminary laboratory tests explaining the reason for hundreds of mysterious elephant deaths in Botswana point to a naturally occurring toxin as a probable cause, a senior wildlife official said.

The government has sent samples to laboratories in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States for tests.

It was highly unlikely that an infectious disease was behind the shocking deaths of at least 281 elephants, added Cyril Taolo, acting director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Officials had been investigating to establish the cause of death more than two months after the first carcasses were spotted in the Okavango Panhandle region.

Initial investigations appeared to rule out common causes like poaching and anthrax.

We have received more test results from other countries including the United States, and so far the results show that it’s highly unlikely that the cause could be an infectious pathogen,” Taolo said.

Our main attention … is now on investigating broader environmental factors such as naturally produced toxins from bacteria that are found in the environment, such as water bodies.”

As of last week it had received results from bacterial detection and toxicology tests in Botswana, histopathology tests in South Africa, and bacterial detection and histopathology tests in Zimbabwe.

Taolo said toxicology results were expected from South Africa soon.

It’s a game of elimination where we start testing the most common causes and then move on to the less common ones. We then have to verify and corroborate these results from different laboratory tests. We are hoping to provide a more concrete update tomorrow,” he continued.

Africa’s overall elephant population is declining due to poaching but Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent’s elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.

The elephant deaths have concerned the conservationists, who fear deaths could spiral out of control if a cause cannot be established rapidly.

Uganda: 11 years in jail for killing gorilla

A poacher has been jailed for 11 years after he confessed to killing a rare mounteen silverback gorilla in Uganda last month.

The gorilla, named Rafiki, which means “friend” in Swahili — was part of the famed Nkuringo gorilla group that lives in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and is a legend among tourists across the world.

Rafiki was reported missing on June 1 and his mutilated body was found the next day inside the park.

A postmortem report revealed that Rafiki was injured by a sharp device to his abdomen and internal organs.

The poacher Byamukama Felix was arrested a few days later with bush pig meat and several hunting devices in his possession, authorities said.

Byamukama pleaded guilty to several charges, including killing a gorilla, entering a protected area and being in possession of illegal meat.
The convicted told authorities he killed Rafiki in self-defense when he went with a group to hunt in the park and they came across the group of gorillas. The silverback charged and he speared it, he said.

Three other men who were arrested with Felix remain in custody awaiting trial as they have pleaded not guilty.

Massive death of Botswana elephants

More than 350 elephants in Botswana have mysteriously died since May, in a phenomenon that some scientists have charachterised as a “conservation disaster”. No full investigation has been conducted so far, no explanation provided, however there have been some tests on a number of carcasses, which have exclused some of contageious deseases, typical for the speaces, but the cause of death remains unexplained.

The elephants — which massively died in the swampy Okavango Delta — still had their tusks intact, suggesting that the ivory poaching was not behind it. A flight over the delta in May by researchers with Elephants Without Borders, a wildlife conservation organization, first spotted 169 carcasses, that number increased rapidly to 356 in June, when the conservationists took another flight over the area.

Botswana’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism is aware of the problme, and the relevant department has verified 275 of those elephant carcasses, according to a statement from the African Wildlife Foundation.

Already, officials have ruled out anthrax, the carcasses tested negative for that bacterium, said Scott Schlossberg, a research consultant for Elephants Without Borders.

The bacterium that causes anthrax disease, called Bacillus anthracis, occurs naturally in soils, where it can stay inactive as spores for decades, scientists reported in 2019 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Grazing animals can ingest anthrax-tainted soils along with plants or while drinking from watering holes.

This isn’t the first elephant die-off in the region; more than 100 elephants died over a two-month period in the fall of 2019 in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, primarily driven by drought. Some of those deaths may have been due to anthrax, as the elephants would have ingested soil (possibly contaminated with anthrax spores) while grazing around dried-up watering holes and across wilted grasslands.

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